How to Ride With Complete Strangers

05.12.2006 | 6:42 pm

Technically, I should never have ridden with Bob (no, not this Bob). I wasn’t even going in the same direction as he. We should have never crossed paths, much less ridden together.

Here’s what happened.

I was riding along 202 on my fixie—oh, how I love the Pista—planning to ride up to Snoqualmie Falls, then maybe continue on. Just see where the road takes me.

Then, as I went by Ames Lake Road, I looked to my left and saw another cyclist heading away.

“I know,” I thought to myself as I went by, “I’ll use him as a rabbit. It’ll be fun to catch someone while on my fixie.”

So I turned turned around, turned on to Ames Lake Road, and started cranking hard. It’s a twisty road, so I could no longer see him. I pushed hard, though, and before long could catch glimpses on the straightaway.

There was just one problem. Even though I was close to redline, I still wasn’t catching him. He was successfully holding me off, without even knowing I was there.

And then, fortune smiled on me. He pulled over to the side of the road.

“A flat,” I thought, and figured I’d offer him a tube or whatever he needed to get rolling again.

But no. As I got closer, I could see: he was just taking a call. So I nodded as I went by, trying to look casual. Then, as soon as I got past, I cranked it up again. Now I was the rabbit. I figured, though, that just as he had held me off, I should be able to hold him off.

I was not able to hold him off.


Conversational Tactics

“Is that a fixed gear bike?” Bob asked.

“Yes,” I said, proudly.

“You doing that for any reason?” Bob asked. This, of course, was a trick question. If I replied that I was doing it because I wanted to become a stronger rider with a smoother cadence, Bob would know that I was a serious rider, which would make his victory over me that much sweeter (for him, not for me).

“Nah, no reason,” I said. “I bought it because I wanted to try track racing, but it turns out that I just really love riding a fixed-gear bike. So I’m just cruising along.”

“Cool,” said Bob. “I’m doing a recovery ride today after a big sufferfest I did last weekend. Some friends and I did a 300-mile ride. Mind if I tool along with you?”

“Sounds great,” I said, backing my effort off ever-so-slightly, to prevent my heart from exploding.

We were on an empty country road, so we rode side-by-side. This meant conversation, and a chance for me to gain an oxygen advantage, by doing the following:

  • Ask short questions that require long answers. “So, tell me about this big ride you did last weekend. Don’t leave out any details.”
  • Parry questions back to the questioner. “Sure, I’m following the Giro whenever I get a moment, but I haven’t been able to track it for a few days. What’s been happening?”
  • Play deaf. “You know, cars keep passing. Could you repeat everything you’ve said in the past 90 seconds?”

Riding Strategy

Since we had both identified that we were not going hard today, you would think that we wouldn’t have to go hard. However, the statement, “I’m taking it easy today” is really nothing more than a thinly-veiled offer to race. Here’s how I managed to stay with Bob:

  • Half-wheel him. Drop behind just a little bit and catch a little draft, even though I’m technically riding beside him.
  • Take advantage of quick dips. The nice thing about the ride we were on is that it rolls. Lots of quick ups and downs. A fixed gear bike is perfect for converting a quick downhill into a short blast of uphill power.
  • When you’re about to blow, bow out. After about forty minutes of riding at what I would call a brutal pace and what he called a recover ride, I knew I was going to crack. I preferred this to be a private moment. So when we crossed highway 202 and he looked like he was going to go straight up to Issaquah-Fall City road, I turned right. “Good riding with you,” I said, and then really turned the cranks hard for 30 seconds as I went down highway 202.

And then, once I was sure he was out of sight, I felt free to softpedal the whole way home.


PS: Clearly, I’m not writing as often as usual right now. With a new job keeping me very busy and a move coming up two weeks from today, my choice is often to ride or write—but not both. Sometimes (OK, pretty often), I’m going to choose riding. I’m sure you understand, because you are a good, understanding, kind person. You’re like Jimmy Stewart. And because you are so kind, I want to assure you: I’m not letting this blog die a slow death; I’m not quitting. I’m just stretched a little thin right now. Metaphorically, alas.


PPS: With a move, a new job, a big project in that job, working at home, a conference coming up for my job, a lot of travel in my job and whatnot, I know that there’s no humanly possible way I’m going to lose ten pounds by June 25 (the day of the Cascade Cream Puff). I’m going to concentrate on not gaining a bunch of weight and on being in good enough shape to complete it, and once I’ve settled into my new house, work on losing the fifteen pounds I need to get that sub-9 at Leadville. And here’s my pledge: If I don’t get to 155 pounds by August 12, I will give away my beloved Bianchi Pista.


PPPS: Next week, I’m going to have some cool stuff to announce, which will likely mean cool stuff to give away. Unless it falls through, in which case I will pretend I never hinted at anything here.


PPPPS: I just now signed up to ride the LOTOJA with Dug and Rick S. That was dumb.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 05.12.2006 | 7:05 pm

    Recover ride, my butt. That guy was lying thru his teeth. He probably let out a big sigh of relief when you turned off. Keep at the weight loss project, because I’m loosing the battle right now. My Dr. officially promounced me a fat bastard (his words) once again. I hang my head in shame.

  2. Comment by Mark | 05.12.2006 | 7:10 pm

    I have been "racing" strangers up the hill on the 520 trail.  I especially like catching the ones who started ahead of me, pulling up behind them, sitting in for 15 to 30 seconds, and than blowing by them on my fixie.  To bad they didn’t know we were racing.

  3. Comment by barry1021 | 05.12.2006 | 7:19 pm

    Good strategy FC, except you left out one important tactic:
     What you said:"So I’m just cruising along.”
    What you should have said: "So I am just cruising along, recovering from my crash in the crit I rode a few weeks back. Only a few broken ribs and major road rash (note: the second part is used only if your arms and legs are covered),  i was lucky. Feels good to be back out again."
    Then whenever you are gassed, you grab your ribs and give out a large grunt.
    As for giving up the Bianchi, well, good and fine if it REALLY REALLY helps you lose the weight, but we were only kidding. None of us will feel good about that. It would be like watching someone’s house burn down. Why not give up something you are less passionate about and don’t need quite as much, like a pinkie finger or a testicle?

  4. Comment by uncadan8 | 05.12.2006 | 7:37 pm

    I don’t know, Barry. I think I would be quite comfortable riding Fatty’s Bianchi Pista. Being a truly fat cyclist (at 279 and 5′11"), it would be like carrying on a legacy. At least I would like to think so. So feel free to give whatever you want, FC. We look forward to your success. We win either way. We’ll always have the blog.

  5. Comment by jim | 05.12.2006 | 7:41 pm

    I still say sub 9 at Leadville or hand the Pista over to me.  I reckon I’m as worthy as the next guy…maybe even worthier.  See, I just used a word that doesn’t even exist.  Worthy, I tell ya.

  6. Comment by Unknown | 05.12.2006 | 7:47 pm

    I, too, am signed up for the LOTOJA. I signed up on the first day–just to make sure I wouldn’t back out. Also, I’m cheap enough that the non-refundable entry fee should keep me doing it.I’m really, REALLY glad it isn’t until September. I have a long way to go to be ready. I’d offer to ride with you guys, but I think it would just quantify how unprepared I am for it.

  7. Comment by Jsun | 05.12.2006 | 8:01 pm

    I think I was the guy you rode with.  And for the record I could have dropped you as if were standing still, which you practically were, but you can’t trackstand either.  What a pathetic excuse for a cyclist, and on a fixie as well, ha. Actually, that’s not true, I was struggling to keep ahead of you and I have never ridden more than 40 miles in a day. You kicked me hard while I was down and I now know my place on this earth. Oh, none of this is true, I haven’t ever been anywhere near you (to my knowledge), and besides, the court order said a distance of 500 feet.
    I sort of agree with Barry1021 about teasing you to give up the fixie.  But I most definiely don’t think anyone would want to win your pinky finger or your left stone.

  8. Comment by Susie | 05.12.2006 | 8:28 pm

    Whoa, you actually are going to do it, give away one of your stallions?  I don’t think you have anything to worry about (today) you will make the weight.  Now you will need to worry if you are the same weight in July.  I would then start planting my lips on the handlebars and bidding it adieu!!

  9. Comment by Unknown | 05.12.2006 | 9:08 pm

    You mean you guys are riding as a relay team, or you are all three going to ride the whole race deciding to ride together as a strategic move?
    P.S. I really wat to do the LOTOJA, but my wife is due on that day, and I just don’t think there is ANY way I’m going to get out of attending my daughter’s birth to go on a bike ride. Talk about strategic decisions.

  10. Comment by Zed | 05.12.2006 | 9:44 pm

    Mmmm, my wife also said ‘no’ to Lotoja. Something about us having a two-week-old baby at that time or something …

  11. Comment by Unknown | 05.12.2006 | 10:40 pm

    You should have responded by saying you were on the way to a track race and needed a warm up ride. 
    Nice one on the Lotoja registration.  Looking forward to not talking during the ride.
    Rick S.

  12. Comment by Unknown | 05.12.2006 | 11:59 pm

    Barry:  No doubt FC spends a big chunk of his day at the computer (especially with the new job, not to mention this prolific blog), so I’m sure lopping off a pinkie is out of the question.  At the very least, it would be a hard decision:
    let’s see, do I want to give up  "Q" "A" and "Z"  or "P" ";" and "." . . .Let me think about that while I woof down these nachos. . .
    I guess that leaves the other thingy you were talking about.

  13. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 05.13.2006 | 12:41 am

    Elden, good for you for entering Lotoja! I’ll definately be there in 2007 if you enter it again. I really think I might be in shape this year but finance precludes a trip out west for it. That gives me time to really build for it though and I fully expect to finish inside the time frame in 2007. I don’t care if I’m first or last considering where I started physically, but I will finish AND have my name on the finishers board with a place, not a DNF!

  14. Comment by barry1021 | 05.13.2006 | 1:21 pm

    Some excellent counterpoints to my alternate suggestions for FC
    KeepYerBag-you are right, we would not want to hinder FC’s ability at work any more than it already is, I would alter that recommendation to the TOP TWO joints of the finger, which would allow him to connect some sort of prosthetic to the stump, or possibly allow the natural buildup of junk food remains to form a replacement. Previous indications of FC’s sanitary habits indicate that would not be a problem.
    Jsun- When I made this recommendation, I was thinking more in terms of FC’s sacrifice rather than one of his blogettes actually getting something from him. As my previous notes indicate, I rarely think of myself, but always put others first. This apparently is not the case with you. That’s cool. Maybe for you FC could throw in one of those nifty software programs that no one actually seems to receive.
    Of course, because of my nature, I do not want to assume that the other regular contributors to the site, many of whom are listed in the top 100 Strangest People on the Planet website, may not actually WANT a body part or two from FC. Or in the case of DUG and FC’s other friends, I would guess they DON’T want any of FC, but might want to participate in the medical operation, possibly with a rusty multitool.

  15. Comment by Unknown | 05.13.2006 | 2:00 pm

    Barry, I herewith challenge you to a normalcy duel. Um. . . OK, I drive a Honda Accord. You know what, forget it, this is just going to embarrass me. Please, just tell me I scored below Al on the Strangest People list.
    P.S. Fatty, I’m not sure how much you’ll be riding your fixie once you move here anyway. Not even you can pedal a road ratio over Traverse Mountain and you’ll look funny spinning a 40 x 25 at 13 mph on the flats!

  16. Comment by Unknown | 05.13.2006 | 2:35 pm

    Is the title of this blog entry a reference to the movie ‘Being There’?
    Great movie.

  17. Comment by barry1021 | 05.13.2006 | 3:14 pm

    Dear Botched:
    EVERYBODY scores below Al on the Strangest people list. It’s a great source of pride for him.

  18. Comment by Janet | 05.13.2006 | 8:58 pm

    Love, Love, Love your blog!  You are an excellent writer.  I have really enjoyed reading your entries and I look forward to reading more.  

  19. Comment by Juliet | 05.14.2006 | 1:58 am

    Welcome back!
    Not that i am betting against you or anything but I could sure use a new bike.
    Good luck anyway!

  20. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 05.14.2006 | 7:24 am

    botched - yep, i was referencing being there. it’s on my list of things which have seriously influenced who i am. other items that go on this list:
     - monty python’s flying circus
     - monty python’s holy grail
     - first two books in the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy 
     - the fall and rise of reginald perrin
     - ghostbusters
    and that’s about it.

  21. Comment by Unknown | 05.14.2006 | 7:11 pm

    no matter what ride you do, always
    say that you just did 2 hours of intervals
    before you showed up. this is perfect when
    meeting someone for the first time.
    i also like to use the friendliest line possible
    when coming across someone unknown out
    on the road: yeah, i could drop you if i wanted
    to, but i have a bad case of I.B.S. (look it up) so, bite me.
    yes, cycling brings people together and
    helps create harmony in the universe.

  22. Comment by Unknown | 05.15.2006 | 1:41 am

    "So long as the roots are not severed all is well, and all will be well, in the garden."
    "Which view?"
    Two of the greatest lines in all of moviedom.
    Good luck with the big move, FC.  I don’t envy you one bit (for having to move, that is.  I DO envy you for a thousand other reasons, though.)

  23. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 05.15.2006 | 10:00 am

    I’ve never heard half-wheeling used to refer to the act of appearing weak.  It was always a move used to annoy and distress a lesser rider.  Engage them in a conversation and then gradually wind up the pace by holding yourself 6 to 12 inches ahead of them.  Then just wait and see whether they collapse or twist a leg sideways and drive their knee up into your hamstring.

  24. Comment by Christina | 05.15.2006 | 6:05 pm

    ha!  this post made me laugh.  my husband just told me a story about being outridden by three triathalon girls, on a FLAT road.  in his defense, he had a bad knee injury and hasn’t been riding regularly since last yr.  so he’s out of shape.  and ticked about it now. 

  25. Comment by Unknown | 05.16.2006 | 7:58 pm

    When chasing, or being chased on a twisty (climbing) road I always like to get out of the saddle and hammer when out of sight, but get back in the saddle looking casual and effortless when the other rider can see me.  That way (theoretically) the other guy will be busting his butt to catch me/not be caught and thinking "that &%#(* is pulling away and not even working hard."  It’s always possible that the other guy is playing the same game, which is fun.  Or he catches/holds you off anyway it’s just beascuse you weren’t trying that hard, as far as he knows…..


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